Last year, we reviewed an NVMe-equipped Adata SSD for the very first time. The XPG SX8200 came in guns blazing, and its solid performance and modest price tag earned it our official endorsement. But now it looks like we’ll have to table that recommendation, because Adata has whipped up a sequel, the XPG SX8200 Pro.
|Adata XPG SX8200 Pro|
|Capacity||Max sequential (MB/s)||Max random (IOps)|
Just like the original SX8200, the Pro is an NVMe-enabled, M.2, four-lane-PCIe drive, with 64-layer Micron TLC and a Silicon Motion controller humming along under the hood. But despite all those similarities, Adata’s product pages claim a variety of significant speed improvements. Random read and write IOps have seen hefty gains, and the 1 TB version’s sequential write speeds have skyrocketed from 1700 MB/s to 3000 MB/s. What accounts for the difference? Maybe it’s the XPG sticker that Adata now ships in the box.
A quick squint at the bare drive reveals that the brains of the operation is Silicon Motion’s SM2262EN controller, a new-and-improved flavor of the SM2262 that underpinned the SX8200. Silicon Motion’s spec sheet reveals precious few differences between the old and the new controllers—they’re both eight-channel affairs with the same interfaces and capabilities—but the SM2262EN’s maximum performance ratings are higher. Unfortunately, the SX8200 Pro sample we received is the 1 TB version, so we won’t be able to do a true and direct comparison of the two controllers, since our original SX8200 review unit was a 480 GB drive.
The controller really does seem to be the only major difference between the old and new drives. They both lean on pseudo-SLC caching to reach their peak speeds, both omit hardware encryption acceleration, both have the same five-year warranty, and both are rated for the same number of total bytes written—640 TB for the 1 TB flavor. One thing that has drastically changed is the price: The 1-TB SX8200 Pro is available at at Amazon for $193, which is a far cry from the $190 that 480 GB version of the prior SX8200 commanded at the time we reviewed it.
So let’s see what a new controller and a fresh coat of sticker does for the SX8200 line. To the bench!
IOMeter — Sequential and random performance
IOMeter fuels much of our latest storage test suite, including our sequential and random I/O tests. These tests are run across the full capacity of the drive at two queue depths. The QD1 tests simulate a single thread, while the QD4 results emulate a more demanding desktop workload. For perspective, 87% of the requests in our old DriveBench 2.0 trace of real-world desktop activity have a queue depth of four or less. Clicking the buttons below the graphs switches between results charted at the different queue depths. Our sequential tests use a relatively large 128-KB block size.
The SX8200 Pro 1 TB’s read speeds aren’t markedly different from the SX8200 500 GB’s, but the writes show tremendous improvement. The Pro doubles the write rates of our older SX8200 review unit. Of course, some of that improvement is simply due to the capacity difference, but nonetheless we’re impressed. Still, Samsung’s 970 EVO 1 TB enjoys a commanding lead in the sequential write tests. TurboWrite seems to remain the gold standard for pseudo-SLC caching speed. Let’s have a look at random rates.
Adata’s claims of random-rate gains do not manifest at QD1, but the Pro ekes out some minor wins over the SX8200 in our QD4 tests.
Our initial IOMeter tests seem to corroborate Adata’s story of how much better the SX8200 Pro is versus its predecessor. But we’ve got a lot more tests to pit against the newcomer.
Sustained and scaling I/O rates
Our sustained IOMeter test hammers drives with 4-KB random writes for 30 minutes straight. It uses a queue depth of 32, a setting that should result in higher speeds that saturate each drive’s overprovisioned area more quickly. This lengthy—and heavy—workload isn’t indicative of typical PC use, but it provides a sense of how the drives react when they’re pushed to the brink.
We’re reporting IOPS rather than response times for these tests. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between SSDs.
The SX8200 Pro’s peak random write rates hover around the same range as the original SX8200’s. But while the SX8200 hit that speed only during a single, fleeting burst, the SX8200 Pro managed to hold to its highest speeds over the span of minutes. The drives both decline to a similar steady-state rate between 20K and 30K IOps.
The absolute peak figure masks the difference in behavior between the two drives that we observed during the high-speed phase. Silicon Motion’s firmware for the SM2262EN clearly has been tuned to milk its pseudo-SLC caching potential for all it’s worth. But as we noted before, Samsung has some secrets that Adata has yet to penetrate; the 970 EVO 1 TB’s steady-state write rates are almost a full 50% faster than that of the XPG SX8200 Pro 1 TB.
Our final IOMeter test examines performance scaling across a broad range of queue depths. We ramp all the way up to a queue depth of 128. Don’t expect AHCI-based drives to scale past 32, though—that’s the maximum depth of their native command queues.
For this test, we use a database access pattern comprising 66% reads and 33% writes, all of which are random. The test runs after 30 minutes of continuous random writes that put the drive in a simulated used state. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between the different drives. Note that each drive uses a different scale for IOPS to allow us to view the shape of its curves.
Adata’s new drive offers smooth scaling until a queue depth of about 32 before leveling off. Not bad for a consumer-oriented drive.
When viewed side by side, it seems that the SX8200 Pro 1 TB does slightly worse in this test than its 480-GB predecessor. Perhaps the firmware’s new burst-speed grunt comes at the cost of performance in more demanding workloads.
Nevertheless, the SX8200 Pro is lookin’ good. IOMeter synthetics have proved troublesome in some of our previous Adata reviews, but this drive hasn’t really broken a sweat yet. Now it’s time to see what its real-world performance is like.
TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers
RoboBench trades synthetic tests with random data for real-world transfers with a range of file types. Developed by our in-house coder, Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, this benchmark relies on the multi-threaded robocopy command build into Windows. We copy files to and from a wicked-fast RAM disk to measure read and write performance. We also cut the RAM disk out of the loop for a copy test that transfers the files to a different location on the SSD.
Robocopy uses eight threads by default, and we’ve also run it with a single thread. Our results are split between two file sets, whose vital statistics are detailed below. The compressibility percentage is based on the size of the file set after it’s been crunched by 7-Zip.
|Number of files||Average file size||Total size||Compressibility|
|Media||459||21.4 MB||9.58 GB||0.8%|
|Work||84,652||48.0 KB||3.87 GB||59%|
RoboBench’s write and copy tests run after the drives have been put into a simulated used state with 30 minutes of 4-KB random writes. The pre-conditioning process is scripted, as is the rest of the test, ensuring that drives have the same amount of time to recover.
The media set is made up of large movie files, high-bitrate MP3s, and 18-MP RAW and JPG images. There are only a few hundred files in total, and the data set isn’t amenable to compression. The work set comprises loads of TR files, including documents, spreadsheets, and web-optimized images. It also includes a stack of programming-related files associated with our old Mozilla compiling test and the Visual Studio test on the next page. The average file size is measured in kilobytes rather than megabytes, and the files are mostly compressible.
Let’s take a look at the media set first. The buttons switch between read, write, and copy results.
The SX8200 Pro actually trails its predecessor slightly in the write tests, but more than makes up for it in the copy tests. It’s the fastest reader and copier yet in the media set with a single thread. The write performance gap between the XPG and Samsung’s 970 EVO 1 TB seems to have shrunk substantially in the real world. What about the more difficult work set?
This time it snags the records across all three tests at 1T. Adata’s new drive is a file-pushing monster.
The SX8200 Pro doesn’t always manage to outdo the original SX8200, but that was a high bar to begin with. The Pro put on a fine showing in RoboBench, about on par (in the aggregate) with Samsung’s perennially potent performers. Our next and last set of tests will measure the drive’s abilities as a primary boot drive.
Until now, all of our tests have been conducted with the SSDs connected as secondary storage. This next batch uses them as system drives.
We’ll start with boot times measured two ways. The bare test depicts the time between hitting the power button and reaching the Windows desktop, while the loaded test adds the time needed to load four applications—Avidemux, LibreOffice, GIMP, and Visual Studio—automatically from the startup folder. These tests cover the entire boot process, including drive initialization.
Yet another unremarkable boot performance. Don’t get me wrong—unremarkable is desirable in this context. Very few SSDs tend to set themselves apart in boot-time tests, and even when they do, it’s not often in a good way.
Next, we’ll tackle load times with two sets of tests. The first group focuses on the time required to load larger files in a collection of desktop applications. We open a 790-MB 4K video in Avidemux, a 30-MB spreadsheet in LibreOffice, and a 523-MB image file in GIMP. In the Visual Studio Express test, we open a 159-MB project containing source code for Microsoft’s PowerShell.
Load times for the first three programs are recorded using PassMark AppTimer. AppTimer’s load completion detection doesn’t play nice with Visual Studio, so we’re still using a stopwatch for that one.
Similarly, these tests don’t typically do much to differentiate SSDs, but this time the SX8200 Pro snags three top finishes. Adata’s onto something here. Finally, let’s load up some games.
The SX8200 Pro is a top-tier gamer, but so is just about any SSD. To give credit where it’s due, though, the drive does net another pair of first-place trophies.
We’ve exhausted our supply of tests but have failed to exhaust the XPG SX8200 Pro. It withstood every sort of challenge we could conceive. The penultimate page of this review documents our storage testing methods, and the conclusion follows thereafter.
Test notes and methods
Here are the essential details for all the drives we tested:
|Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Silicon Motion SM2262||64-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Adata XPG SX8200 Pro 1 TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Silicon Motion SM2262EN||64-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Crucial MX500 500 GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||64-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Crucial P1 500 GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Silicon Motion SM2263||64-layer Micron 3D QLC|
|Intel X25-M G2 160 GB||SATA 3Gbps||Intel PC29AS21BA0||34-nm Intel MLC|
|Samsung 850 EVO 1 TB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MEX||32-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 860 EVO 1 TB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MJX||64-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 860 QVO 1 TB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MJX||64-layer Samsung QLC|
|Samsung 970 EVO 1 TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Phoenix||64-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1 TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Phoenix||90+-layer Samsung TLC|
|Toshiba RC100||PCIe Gen3 x2||Toshiba||64-layer Toshiba BiCS TLC|
The SATA SSDs were connected to the motherboard’s Z270 chipset. The PCIe drives were connected via one of the motherboard’s M.2 slots, which also draw their lanes from the Z270 chipset.
We used the following system for testing:
|Processor||Intel Core i7-6700K|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5|
|Memory size||16 GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 at 2133 MT/s|
|System drive||Corsair Force LS 240 GB with S8FM07.9 firmware|
|Power supply||Rosewill Fortress 550 W|
|Operating system||Windows 10 x64 1803|
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the system’s motherboard, to Intel for the CPU, to Corsair for the memory and system drive, and to Rosewill for the PSU. And thanks to the drive makers for supplying the rest of the SSDs.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- IOMeter 1.1.0 x64
- TR RoboBench 0.2a
- Passmark AppTimer 1.0
- Avidemux 2.7.1 x64
- GIMP 2.10.0
- LibreOffice 184.108.40.206
- Visual Studio Community 2017 15.7.4
- Batman: Arkham Origins
- Tomb Raider
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Some further notes on our test methods:
- To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before every component of our test suite. For the IOMeter database, RoboBench write, and RoboBench copy tests, the drives were put in a simulated used state that better exposes long-term performance characteristics. Those tests are all scripted, ensuring an even playing field that gives the drives the same amount of time to recover from the initial used state.
- We run virtually all of our tests three times and report the median of the results. We run our sustained IOMeter test a second time to verify the results of the first test, and we perform additional runs only if necessary. The sustained test runs for 30 minutes continuously, so it already samples performance over a long period.
- Steps have been taken to ensure the CPU’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the frequency at 4.0 GHz. Transitioning between power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.
The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1920 x 1200 at 60 Hz. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit up our forums to talk with us about them.
Adata’s XPG SX8200 was one of the quicker drives in our current standings when it first hit our storage labs, and the Pro edition is even faster. The SX8200 Pro 1 TB must certainly be among the fastest client NVMe drives we’ve ever tested. We distill the overall performance rating using an older SATA SSD as a baseline. To compare each drive, we then take the geometric mean of a basket of results from our test suite. Only drives that have been through the entire current test suite on our current rig are represented.
The XPG SX8200 Pro was just a few hairs short of snagging that coveted number-one position. Adata had more first-place finishes throughout the test suite, but the 970 EVO 1 TB’s margin of victory was enormous in a few of the IOMeter synthetics. But don’t fret, SX8200 Pro; the 970 EVO is fantastic company to keep, even if it is the drive of yesteryear.
To wrap up our discussion of the XPG SX8200 Pro and render our final verdict, we must examine the latest developments in the SSD price wars. In the plots below, the most compelling position is toward the upper left corner, where the price per gigabyte is low and performance is high.
After months of endless freefall, it seems that SSD prices have somewhat stabilized. They’re still quite low, thankfully, but they have plummeted no further since our last check-in. The XPG SX8200 1 TB fetches $193 at Amazon or directly from Adata, which translates to a mere nineteen cents per gigabyte. It doesn’t feel like that long since the days when 1-TB SATA drives were around the three-hundred-dollar mark, so shelling out less than $200 for a terabyte of wicked-fast NVMe goodness feels like a steal.
As far as the competition is concerned, well, you can pay a bit more for a 970 EVO or 970 EVO Plus and get a bit more performance, but it pays to keep in mind what sort of gains you’re ponying up for. We haven’t yet had a crack at the 970 EVO Plus 1 TB, but the vanilla 970 EVO 1 TB’s advantages primarily lay in our IOMeter synthetic tests for sequential writes and long-sustained random writes. The speed gap shrank to near nil in our real-world RoboBench and load time tests.
So if you’re a salt-of-earth sort of gerbil with ordinary storage needs, the XPG SX8200 Pro 1 TB will give you everything you need and more. Its competent handling of our IOMeter tests and blazing speeds in our file-transfer and stopwatch tests left us with the warm fuzzies. Its remarkably reasonable asking price was just icing on the cake. Adata has put out a real winner in the SX8200 Pro.